Volunteers at the New Cross People’s Library hope to raise £3,000 with a charity auction this Saturday as the library struggles to stay open.
NXPL, which was taken over by locals after it was axed by the Lewisham Council in May, faces closure within a year if it cannot raise £45,000 by April, when it will have to start paying rent. On Monday, the Library received utilities bills totalling £20,000.
Among the 50 lots up for auction are two holidays and work donated by local artists, including Goldsmiths alumni Eileen Cooper, who was appointed Keeper at the Royal Academy in October 2011.
As we reported in May, community members reopened the library after it was one of five libraries axed by cuts. Four were given to run by Darren Taylor, CEO of Eco Computer Systems, but New Cross was left out of the deal.
Gill Hart, 59, a New Cross resident who volunteers at the library, said: “I’ve put a lot of work into it, so I’d be devastated, but I just can’t envisage the library not being here. It will leave a huge gap and that’s how we see our role: we’re actually bridging a gap.
“If this library closes I foresee potentially almost a thousand children who won’t be as literate.”
Walking into the building, it’s clear why residents were so eager to reopen it. The library is a hive of activity. There is a reading club for children with at least 10 attendees and at its heart is Gill Dunbar, one of the original camp aigners and now chair of New Cross People’s Library.
Simon Cowderoy, a local man who now volunteers, can be found on the front desk checking books in and out. “There is more to the library than just books”, he said.
Cowderoy provides IT help and keeps an eye on the children who come in from the four schools that now use the library. He joked that he needs earplugs when the 20 or so mothers and babies come in once a week. A good day for him is when he can help people with problems that a normal library could not.
Every week, four hundred primary school children use the library as an essential resource. According to Hart: “Books are a bit like children’s clothing.
“They grow out of them. They’re very expensive, six books might be nice to have on the shelf, but as far as reading is concerned children need a lot more books, and they need to read regularly.”
Volunteer Kathy Dunbar, 56, said: “Anybody and everybody from this community is welcome to come into this building.
“A lot of these people, some are retired, some of them are long-time unemployed, so in many ways we’re helping them, because they can improve their CVs, their self-esteem, making it easier for them to get a job.”
Rebbecca Charikar, a Medical secretary who volunteers for five hours a week, modestly omits that she is one of the two fundraisers who actively fill out forms looking for money. She is sad that Lewisham council is not running the library but is glad that it is still open and very active.
A Christmas fair will be held on the December 11 where people will pay £5 for fabrics and be shown how to make festive decorations.
The auction will take place on Saturday November 19 at 7.30pm.
To get involved, visit the library and fill in a volunteer form, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
By Delores William and Aaron Lee.